Saturday, April 04, 2015

The Divine Mercy

Divine Mercy sanctuary - Vilnius

"Imprint in our heart, Lord, sentiments of faith, hope and charity, of sorrow for our sins, and lead us to repent for our sins that have crucified You." - Pope Francis

I watched the Stations of the Cross from Rome last evening.  I was deeply impressed with the prayers, especially the last, prayed by the Holy Father.  He looked very tired to me, and sounded so 'soft' - and I loved how he wove all that troubles mankind into an appeal for mercy.
O Christ crucified and victorious, Your Way of the Cross is the summary of your life, the icon of Your obedience to the will of the Father, and the realization of your infinite love for us sinners. It is the proof of Your mission. It is the final fulfillment of the revelation and the history of salvation. The weight of Your cross frees us from all of our burdens. In Your obedience to the will of the Father, we become aware of our rebellion and disobedience. 
In You, sold, betrayed, crucified by Your own people and those dear to you, we see our own betrayals and our own usual infidelity. In Your innocence, Immaculate Lamb, we see our guilt. In Your face, slapped, spat on and disfigured, we see the brutality of our sins. In the cruelty of Your passion, we see the cruelty of our heart and of our actions. In Your own feeling of abandonment, we see those abandoned by their families, by society, by attention and by solidarity. 
In Your body, sacrificed, ripped and torn, we see the body of our brothers who have been abandoned along the way, disfigured by our negligence and our indifference. In Your thirst Lord, we see the thirst of Your merciful Father, who desired to embrace, forgive and save all of humanity. In You, Divine Love, we see even today, before our very eyes, and often with our silence and complicity, our persecuted brothers and sisters, decapitated, crucified for their faith in You. - Pope Francis

Don't forget the Divine Mercy devotion - especially as we prepare for the Holy Year - and of course, the Synod on the Family.  I look forward to both - I have such peace regarding these two events.  All the fears, the talk, the gossip, the reaction against the Holy Father, the Synod, and even an apparent resistance to the proclamation of Mercy itself, seems to me, to be unwarranted.  I think my confidence is a grace, the fruit of Divine Mercy:  Jesus I trust in you!

So, whatever your state of mind - indeed - your state of soul - turn to the Divine Mercy.  The novena began on Good Friday, but you can begin it anytime - the essential element of the novena is the Chaplet of Divine Mercy - pray that and use the image to captivate all your senses, all the faculties of your soul.

I know many images exist and many may not appeal to some Catholics - but try to overlook the variety of styles.  Mortify your artistic sensibilities, and like a child, in an attitude of spiritual poverty, find a representation which appeals to your heart.  I prefer some of the earliest images, within the context of the sanctuaries wherein they are venerated.  Imagine yourself, in the light pouring forth from the sacred image, in the blood and water flooding your soul, immerse yourself therein and suspend yourself in that light - or let yourself be suspended, lifted up in His merciful love.

This man needs chocolate ...


Video here.

Holy Saturday

Our Lady of Solitude…Pray For Us.

O Mary Virgin most pure.
O Mother of the most loving son,
obtain for me through your painful solitude the grace
to suffer with patience the trials of this earthy life,
with the protection of your maternal care,
may I sing your praise with grateful heart in heaven forever. Amen.

Friday, April 03, 2015

Good Friday

Blood and water flowing from the
side of Christ
as a font of mercy for us,
I trust in you.

Mass Chat: That was different. A Mandatum compromise ...

What happened where you went to Holy Thursday’s Mass, assuming, of course, that you went?
[Fr. Z has a poll up...]

  • To avoid controversy, Liturgical dance took place in the parking lot before Mass, solemnly culminating in a procession to the door of the Church, where the priest and servers took over, processing in.

The rite of washing of feet, or Mandatum, is an option in the Roman Rite.

  • After the Gospel, the pastor announced the washing of the feet would take place after Mass, downstairs in the dining hall.  Those who wished could participate, men and women were welcome, although the Prayer Warriors were asked to keep watch at the altar of repose.

Prayer Warriors.

The Mass I attended:
*involved everyone being invited to do something to someone else.

All are welcome!

I should blog for Patheos.  What?

The Fr. Z poll here.

During the night they seized him, bound him, led him away, and imprisoned him ...

His eyes streamed with tears...

 Sitting alone and in silence ...

And ... the cock crowed.

 they brought Jesus 
from Caiaphas to the praetorium.

It was morning.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Art and meditation.

Agony in the Garden - Andrea Mantegna

Sleepers - George Tooker

While looking for an image to use for tonight's remembrance of the Agony in the Garden, I came upon something interesting.

I always knew American artist George Tooker was very much inspired by Renaissance painter, Andrea Mantegna, but I never connected one of his early works, Sleepers, with that of Mantegna's, Agony in the Garden.  Though it may seem an insignificant footnote to his body of work, it suggests to me Tooker was attracted early on to the Catholic Church... long before his conversion which occurred after his partner died.  The seed may lay dormant in a soul, hidden, until the grace of God causes it to sprout and grow.  "The coming of the kingdom of God cannot be observed ..." - Luke 17:20

Mantegna's undulating landscape 
may be more obvious in this detail.

The Gospel of Life comes alive ...

Love one another ...

Jesus said:
I have given you an example,
that you should do likewise.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

RFRA: Indiana, Arkansas, and counting ...

Religious Freedom Restoration Act

The redefinition of  RFRA story is all over the news and Catholic blogs this week, and a referendum like it will probably be coming to your state soon... if it stands in Indiana I might add.

It's about legal protection for people who refuse to provide goods and services for persons who want to use them for purposes contrary to the merchants religious beliefs.  Kind of like baking a cake for a gay wedding, only the baker says he can't because doing so would be an act approving of something which goes against his conscience and which his religious beliefs condemn.  It's more complicated than that of course - but that's the popular understanding.

There is a cultural agenda, a sea change in the works, and the gay marriage issue is the weapon to silence religious moral teaching.  The WSJ calls it a reversal of tolerance:
The paradox is that even as America has become more tolerant of gays, many activists and liberals have become ever-more intolerant of anyone who might hold more traditional cultural or religious views. Thus a CEO was run out of Mozilla after it turned out that he had donated money to a California referendum opposing same-sex marriage. 
Part of the new liberal intolerance is rooted in the identity politics that dominates today’s Democratic Party. That’s the only way to explain the born-again opportunism of Hillary Clinton, who tweeted: “Sad this new Indiana law can happen in America today. We shouldn’t discriminate against ppl bc of who they love.” 
By that standard, Mrs. Clinton discriminated against gays because she opposed gay marriage until March 2013. But now she wants to be seen as leading the new culture war against the intolerant right whose views she recently held. 
The same reversal of tolerance applies to religious liberty. When RFRA passed in 1993, liberal outfits like the ACLU were joined at the hip with the Christian Coalition. But now the ACLU is denouncing Indiana’s law because it wants even the most devoutly held religious values to bow to its cultural agenda on gay marriage and abortion rights.

Liberals used to understand that RFRA, with its balancing test, was a good-faith effort to help society compromise on contentious moral disputes. That liberals are renouncing it 20 years after celebrating it says more about their new intolerance than about anyone in Indiana.
Everything is a battle these days.

It is so exasperating.  As I said to a friend in the com box on another post referencing the Indiana story:  "Weddings are over-rated. I'm ashamed of gay people for demanding them in the first place, as well as for upsetting the whole world with their ostentatious demands. I'm totally serious."  But that's just my personal opinion.  I'm against gay marriage.

Fact is, everything in modern life is a battle - nearly everything in popular culture militates against the faith.  What is completely lost on contemporary culture is the reality of just discrimination.  There is such a thing, and for religious persons, it comes up in direct relationship to equality issues as they relate to gender issues and homosexuality.  I will cite some considerations from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith - another document often ignored by Catholics - and despised by gay Catholics.

"As in every moral disorder, homosexual activity prevents one's own fulfilment and happiness by acting contrary to the creative wisdom of God."
4. In reference to the homosexual movement, the letter states: “One tactic used is to protest that any and all criticism of or reservations about homosexual people, their activity and lifestyle, are simply diverse forms of unjust discrimination” (no. 9)
5. “There is an effort in some countries to manipulate the Church by gaining the often well-intentioned support of her pastors with a view to changing civil statutes and laws. This is done in order to conform to these pressure groups' concept that homosexuality is at least a completely harmless, if not an entirely good, thing.
6. “She (the Church) is also aware that the view that homosexual activity is equivalent to or as acceptable as the sexual expression of conjugal love has a direct impact on society's understanding of the nature and rights of the family and puts them in jeopardy” (no. 9).
7. “It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church's pastors wherever it occurs. It reveals a kind of disregard for others which endangers the most fundamental principles of a healthy society. The intrinsic dignity of each person must always be respected in word, in action and in law. 
But the proper reaction to crimes committed against homosexual persons should not be to claim that the homosexual condition is not disordered. When such a claim is made and when homosexual activity is consequently condoned, or when civil legislation is introduced to protect behavior to which no one has any conceivable right, neither the Church nor society at large should be surprised when other distorted notions and practices gain ground, and irrational and violent reactions increase.”
10. “Sexual orientation” does not constitute a quality comparable to race, ethnic background, etc. in respect to non-discrimination. Unlike these, homosexual orientation is an objective disorder (cf. Letter, no. 3) and evokes moral concern.
11. There are areas in which it is not unjust discrimination to take sexual orientation into account, for example, in the placement of children for adoption or foster care, in employment of teachers or athletic coaches, and in military recruitment. - CDF: Considerations

Documents such as this from the CDF is one of many reasons Christians are under attack in the public square, and the Catholic Church is the main target.  Indifference on the part of Catholics can't persist, since we are morally obligated to defend Catholic teaching.  As the CDF document makes clear:

Finally, where a matter of the common good is concerned, it is inappropriate for Church authorities to endorse or remain neutral toward adverse legislation even if it grants exceptions to Church organizations and institutions. The Church has the responsibility to promote family life and the public morality of the entire civil society on the basis of fundamental moral values, not simply to protect herself from the application of harmful laws (cf. no. 17). - CDF: Considerations

I'm not a Church authority, but a baptized Catholic, and I uphold Catholic teaching.

Welcome to the final confrontation.
We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has gone through. I do not think that wide circles of the American society or wide circles of the Christian community realize this fully. We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-Church, of the Gospel and the anti-Gospel. This confrontation lies within the plans of divine providence. It is a trial which the whole Church… must take up.
We must prepare ourselves to suffer great trials before long ...
We must be strong and prepared and trust in Christ and in his Holy Mother and be very, very assiduous in praying the holy rosary. - Blessed John Paul II 

Disclaimer! Disclaimer!

All rightey then. I know so very little about weddings.  I don' know nothin' 'bout birthin' babies nieder.   Forgive me.  I didn't realize the servers got so involved: the baker-florist and everyone else, all end up part of the show. My mistake. I know nothing about marriage and never wanted to because I never could be married - thought of it twice and got close to the planning once, but thank God, I realized I'm not the marrying kind.

That said - when I wrote weddings are over-rated anyway - I meant weddings are over-rated by popular culture - the spectacle - the party- the glamour - the moment in the sun, all of that plays into into gay ostentation and drama.  At least that was what I meant when I said weddings are over-rated.   Likewise, it seems to me the way marriage is treated in today's culture it has lost much of its meaning - outside the sacrament of matrimony at least.  

I come from a wretched background.  Forgive me.  

Don't pay any attention to me.

But just for the record - I do not for a minute accept gay marriage.

How's that?  ;)

Bobby Schindler Remembers His Sister Terri

Bobby Schindler

Ten years after.

I've been asked to do a couple of posts on a few different causes but there are some things more important to post about right now.  Matters of life - and death.

While looking for a photo to illustrate this post, I came across some monstrous images mocking the death of Terri Schiavo.  Today is the tenth anniversary of her death and her brother Bobby wrote an article for Life News on how horrible it was to watch his sister have ordinary care withdrawn from her, which resulted in a slow, agonizing death.  She was not receiving extraordinary life support, simply food and water.  She was starved, dehydrated to death.  Some of the images I saw online which mocked Terri Schiavo's suffering were gross, indecent, and heinously cruel.  They made a joke of her death.

Bobby Schindler speculates that numerous deaths just like Terri's take place all of the time, and I've heard of less sensational cases elsewhere in the world.  It's a horrible, painful death that the majority of people would not even tolerate in the case of a beloved pet.  St. Maximilian Kolbe was martyred in this way; he survived so long a period, the Nazis finished him off with lethal injection.  Compassion was not the motivating factor, the Nazis simply wanted to get rid of him.

What have we become?

Bobby remembers his sister:
On March 18, 2005, my sister, Terri Schiavo, began her thirteen day agonizing death after the feeding tube – supplying her food and water – was removed. Terri was cognitively disabled and had difficulty swallowing and therefore needed a feeding tube. Terri was not on any “life support”, nor was she sick or dying. Nonetheless, she received her death sentence ordered by Circuit Court Judge, George W. Greer of Pinellas County Florida. 
Greer’s order to remove Terri’s feeding tube was in response to her estranged husband and guardian, Michael Schiavo, requesting permission from the court to kill his disabled wife. This was after Schiavo began cohabitating with his fiancée and stood to inherit Terri’s medical trust fund, which at the time was close to $800,000. 
However, more disturbing was that the judge ruled to kill Terri, despite her mother and father pleading with Schiavo, and the court, to allow them to take her home. In fact, a guardian ad litem urged Judge Greer to refuse the dehydration request. Instead, this legally-required protector of Terri was dismissed from the original case by Greer and no replacement was ever appointed. 
March 31st marks a very sad day; and this year, it will be the ten year anniversary of Terri’s death. - Please finish reading here.

Bobby Schindler says he will never forget.  I trust he will not.  It reminds me of Jewish survivors of the Holocaust and their descendants, proclaiming, "never forget".  Yet how many forgot Terri Schiavo?   How many forget those who are continuing to perish in this manner?

It's heartbreaking.

Something from Teresa of Jesus for Tuesday of Holy Week

The Means Whereby Our Lord Quickened Her Soul, Gave Her Light in Her Darkness, and Made Her Strong in Goodness. 

1. My soul was now grown weary; and the miserable habits it had contracted would not suffer it to rest, though it was desirous of doing so. It came to pass one day, when I went into the oratory, that I saw a picture which they had put by there, and which had been procured for a certain feast observed in the house. It was a representation of Christ most grievously wounded; and so devotional, that the very sight of it, when I saw it, moved me—so well did it show forth that which He suffered for us. So keenly did I feel the evil return I had made for those wounds, that I thought my heart was breaking. I threw myself on the ground beside it, my tears flowing plenteously, and implored Him to strengthen me once for all, so that I might never offend Him any more.

2. I had a very great devotion to the glorious Magdalene, and very frequently used to think of her conversion—especially when I went to Communion. As I knew for certain that our Lord was then within me, I used to place myself at His feet, thinking that my tears would not be despised. I did not know what I was saying; only He did great things for me, in that He was pleased I should shed those tears, seeing that I so soon forgot that impression. I used to recommend myself to that glorious Saint, that she might obtain my pardon.

3. But this last time, before that picture of which I am speaking, I seem to have made greater progress; for I was now very distrustful of myself, placing all my confidence in God. It seems to me that I said to Him then that I would not rise up till He granted my petition. I do certainly believe that this was of great service to me, because I have grown better ever since. - St. Teresa of Jesus, Life, Chapter IX

Monday, March 30, 2015

So queer: Wedding cakes under discussion at Patheos ...

The Indiana bigot story here.


Mary's detractors...

In Today's Gospel.

Jesus defends Mary from Judas and other detractors.  She anoints his feet with costly ointment and dries them with her hair.  In the eyes of her detractors, nothing is done right, nothing she does or says is 'worthy'.

I came across a rather mean spirited criticism of Eve Tushnet last week - I can't remember which site it was on but I knew about it because some comments online are automatically emailed - evidently I'm a 'follower' of the guy who commented.  Anyway - I found the comment to be unfair and degrading.

I posted recently on Eve Tushnet and a reader mentioned something regarding the impression of special treatment LGBTQ people seem to expect.  I thought about that and pretty much went through Eve's book once again.  (Gay and Catholic)  There is much in her writings which remind me of things Fr. Benedict Groeschel wrote about in The Courage to Be Chaste.  In fact, I wish Fr. Benedict was still alive because I think he would not as suspicious, even afraid of the Spiritual Friendship movement, as the rest of us seem to be at times.

Truth be told, much of what Eve writes is applicable to single Catholics, gay or straight.  Fr. Benedict often liked to say that the single person, the celibate person is freed to be of service to others.  We are available to serve others.  That doesn't mean one needs to be a lector or Eucharistic minister, or RCIA instructor.  Eve talks about actual service to others.  You don't fit in at a parish, volunteer for Loaves and Fishes - you meet people, you serve people - you leave yourself in caring for others.  Eve discusses her work in a crises pregnancy center, she even took in people, because she lived alone.  Whether or not one agrees with everything Eve discusses, her advice is worthy of consideration and quite helpful for single people wondering what to do with their lives.

Having said that, I came upon something new Eve Tushnet wrote for Spiritual Friendship which speaks to some of the problems gay Catholics face from their "detractors", if you will.  Eve Tushnet cites some things that I too have learned through personal experience, and I just want to share a couple of excerpts of what she wrote below.

Perhaps addressing some of the detractors of the Spiritual Friendship group, Eve writes:
"... we’re subjected to so many demands that we repeat, “I’m chaste! I’m celibate!” in order to earn an uncertain welcome in the church."
She goes on to discuss the self-defeating sexualization of gay and same sex attracted Christians - and I think she nails it:
Some straight Christians seem to view everything we bring to our churches solely through the lens of our sexuality*. I just heard a couple heartbreaking stories from friends who were told that the abuse they had suffered, or their struggles with addiction, were the result of their homosexuality. I’ve had friends whose pastors assessed friendships and other relationships solely on the basis of whether they helped the friend remain chaste—as if chastity were the only virtue, and friendship was a sort of chastity accountability partnership. Basically, gay people are sometimes treated as if all our experiences are unusually sexually-charged, and all our relationships are either a) focused solely on chastity, or b) near occasions of sin. - Self-Defeating Sexualization...
 I'll just highlight three points Eve cites in the article which anyone might find useful when faced with temptations against chastity.  Vigilance is necessary in temptation - but obsessing over the temptations can exhaust the person.  Anyway, as Eve points out, this sexualization can be debilitating.  She notes - my comments in italics:

  1. "It makes gay or same-sex attracted people afraid of intimacy, because every close relationship with someone of the same sex could be a temptation to sexual sin." - Yes - I agree.
  2. "It reduces us to our sexuality, which is dehumanizing." - Absolutely.
  3. " the assumption that gay people’s spiritual and moral problems center around chastity makes chastity harder."  - Yes - because it becomes the focus, the constant fear/worry.
It is very important to seek and strive for peace, and interior peace.  As Eve says: This mindset is quiet and calm, not intent on attainment of perfection through personal effort. It’s a mindset which I think is relatively conducive to chastity.

I think she is exactly right.

The devil loves nothing more than to upset us and cause as much anxiety as possible, including confusing us as to whether we consented to a temptation, or felt some sort of arousal or inclination to lust, and so on.  
"When people are stressed, anxious, and alone, one obvious coping mechanism is lust. When we flee other people because they might tempt us, we often learn that we brought more than enough temptation in our own heads." - Eve Tushnet
+ + + 

*That may be due to the fact the common understanding of gay-ssa-homosexuality as a 'sexual attraction' usually leading to homosexual acts, is often the first thing most people connect with when they meet persons who identify by their 'sexual' preferences.  Attached to this is the popular practice of eroticizing friendship and close relationships.

+ + +

Ed. note:  For what it's worth, and if you are interested, I've written in a more traditional vein on temptations against chastity here.  

Once upon a time ...

A lone young shepherd
lived in pain ...

After a long time he climbed a tree,
And spread his shining arms,
And hung by them, and died,
His heart an open wound with love.
- S. John of the Cross

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Mass Chat: Processions and betrayal...

Palm Sunday.

I didn't participate in the procession - I know how these things end.

Interestingly, a friend sent me an email saying he was sick of church people and the general insistence everybody in the parish needs to actively participate in something.  He added: I am sick of internalizing the guilt that comes with non-participation.

I agreed with him.  I'm sick of all the guilters online as well.  You can't do this or that, you can't say that, you can't be that and Catholic, you have to support this...  Catholics have a lot of rules about rules ...

Listen to the Pope:
"It's sad to be a believer without joy and there is no joy when there is no faith, when there is no hope, when there is no law, but only rules and cold doctrine..." 
"The.. doctors of the law didn't understand.  They didn't understand the joy of the promise; they didn't understand the joy of hope; they didn't understand the joy of the covenant." 
 "They didn't know how to rejoice because they had lost the sense of joy that only comes from faith," not only did they lack faith, "they had lost the law. Because at the heart of the law is love -- love for God and for one's neighbor." 
"They only had a system of clear-cut doctrines ..." 
As "men without faith, without law and attached to doctrine," they lived in a world that was "abstract, a world without love, a world without faith, a world without hope, a world without trust, a world without God. And this is why they could not rejoice," the pope said. "Their hearts had petrified." - CNS

There are different ways of participation.  Prayer is an active participation.  Just showing up is participation.  Frequenting the sacraments - especially the sacrament of penance is participation.  Assisting at Mass devoutly is participation.  Listening to the readings is participation.

All dressed up, waving palms in the air and singing real well - who am I to judge?

Is that bad?

Pay no attention to me.


Moving on...

Palm Sunday - The Passion of the Lord

Everybody dies...

I just learned of the death of a priest friend.  I lost touch with him.  We met in Assisi and he was my confessor while I was there.  He arranged for me to make a hermit retreat in the newly restored apartments of St. Joseph Cupertino at the Sacro Convento.

I feel ashamed, because I didn't keep in touch, save for a card here and there.  The last time I looked him up he was fine.  I Googled him Saturday evening and discovered he had died suddenly - two years ago.

He was greatly loved by all who knew him.

Please remember him in prayer.

Fr. George Sandor, OFM Conv.